Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads April 4th, 2021

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”

― Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

  1. This is so good. So many insights per minute here. I’m trying to get smarter and I recommend listening to this if you want to know where the world is going. Rise of Decentralized world. Declining (the West) versus Rising World (Asia). Another great Interview with Balaji S. Srinivasan.

The Realignment Ep. 98: Balaji Srinivasan, the Coming Decentralization of Everything

2. “Negative press is an attack on your social network.

Your bank account is your stored wealth, your real name is your stored reputation. Only you can debit your bank account, but anyone can debit your reputation.”

3. “Remember, you are choosing the VC as much as they are choosing you. You might be “married” to this partner for the next ten years — so you need to choose wisely. No need to waste your time with VCs that are not going to be good fits. This is especially true in today’s more frothy market where you don’t need to collect term sheets just to optimize valuation.”

4. “The purpose of telling this story is to turn the heads of those in the global tech community towards this remarkable project that is being built in India so that we can collectively build upon the lessons learnt from India Stack, similar to how the virtues of M-PESA are still extolled in business schools and case studies around the world today.

Although the implementation of India Stack has undeniably helped to transform the fortunes of the world’s fifth largest economy and its second most populous country, this work has largely gone unnoticed. This needs to change.”

5. An old book that I seem to have missed. Will have to fix this. Lessons from Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt rode this wave like no other. He was rich. Filthy rich. At the peak of his wealth he owned the equivalent of one in every nine dollars in the United States.

Vanderbilt’s legacy provides timeless and universal lessons in business success. He thrived in an era of enormous technological change as railways revolutionised the American economy. Yet his approach to business is evident in many of the successful businesses we see today; tapping new markets through lower prices, respecting shareholders, sharing scale advantages and sacrificing short term profits for long term gains.”

6. Wow, just wow. It’s a long one but I strongly recommend listening to this. It is dark but I think he is one of most prescient & sharpest humans on the planet.

7. “Virtually all investing mistakes are rooted in people looking at long-term market returns and saying, “That’s nice, but can I have it all faster?”

8. “Most good investing is just sticking around for the longest time possible, through thick and thin. Quash the need to own whatever is going up the most and you reduce the urge to abandon whatever eventually goes down. Someone will always be getting richer than you. It’s OK.”

9. “While money is immensely important, the reason why you have it is to keep your health! By being rich you’re able to eat healthy, get some sun, live without stress and help people who have helped you in the past. The point of getting money is not to buy a Tesla (you can if you’d like) it is to eliminate every negative aspect of your life.”

10. The brilliant content marketing of Cathie Wood & ARK.

“While other firms go out of their way to hide their investments, ARK is an open book. This is also uniquely tailored to our current market environment. It’s effectively pushing a press release to the entire world every day. The financial media eats it up, while it dominates social media. They remain in the conversation every single day.

That simple push of numerical information catalyzes an army of investors, all looking for guidance, affirmation, and just something to think about, to think about yourstocks. Every day you manage to live, as the saying goes, rent-free in all of our heads.

It’s become pretty clear in the past decade there’s a correlation between power and the space you occupy in our collective consciousness.”

11. “But now it’s time for risk-takers to shine: entrepreneurs, creators, influencers, chefs…

Embrace optionality:

Risk isn’t a bad thing per se, and we need to help people assess and take more risk.

Risk can never be totally eliminated, and doing nothing is probably a bigger risk than making the wrong decisions.

Only diversification can mitigate risk. No asset manager puts all of their money into gold, no matter how safe gold is considered to be.

As a (young) individual, don’t park your money in products earning 0.5% interest, don’t choose your education because it’s safe, don’t go work for large corporates with 40-year career plans. These were strategies for a society that thrived on large companies, cheap real estate, and heavy leverage.”

12. “I’ve started nine businesses. The best predictive signal for their success has turned out to be the phase of the economic cycle in which they were started. Put simply, the best time to start a business is on the heels of a recession. And while pandemic economics haven’t resulted in a garden-variety recession — in either its duration (short) or its recovery (K-shaped) — there are factors that make this the best time to start a business in over a decade. Specifically:

— Unprecedented stimulus and savings resulting in a Nazaré-like wave of consumer spending.

— A gestalt among consumers and enterprises to question the status quo, and be open to new products and services.

— The emergence of new fields and the capital to disrupt traditional industries as immunities kick in and monopoles are broken up.”

13. “What we have here is a frothy mix of startups and large companies racing to provide a comprehensive spectrum of workflow automation tools to empower companies to spin up workflows quickly and move work involving both human and machine labor through an organization.”

14. “The first rigged game is certainly money and there is one big trap here. The trap? The personality destruction that comes with it. You’ll find that “most” rich people are boring as rocks. They are extremely conservative and simply worked hard all day long slaving away to make money. They are so conservative they don’t even think the 4% rule works and likely live at 35% of annual passive income “just in case”. These are the same people that exhibit large amounts of passive aggressive behavior, live with quiet desperation and just don’t see money as a tool (instead they view it as their actual worth).”

“Fortunately, just like money there is a basic formula to being happy which is as follows: Don’t bother comparing yourself to anyone else and put all your effort into each day. That is really all there is.”

15. “The best deals used to be reserved for the best investors. But as more liquidity entered private markets, and finding money was no longer the primary issue, founders now have other factors to consider. One of the biggest factors is getting their product or services in front of users. Traditional venture capitalists are no longer the only game in town.”

16. Never was a fan of Russell Brand, but it definitely looks like he has grown up, which is a good thing.

“You go through little deaths,” he continues. “The little deaths of the phases of your life. And perhaps our progression as individuals is contingent upon if we are able to accept that.”

17. “Every civilization rests on a core stack of social technology that coordinates and sustains its vital institutions. Social technologies — intentionally designed ways for the people in a society to operate — form the basis of the varied systems of material production and material technology that we see in every society. These social technology cores decay with time as they obsolete their own foundations, and as errors and parasitism build up. This decay can be circumvented, and the decaying core social technologies can be swapped for new ones, but this is a process of immense historical difficulty.

What, then, is the core engine of our own civilization, and in what way might it decay? While we lack an incontrovertible answer, the Industrial Revolution appears to be a leading candidate.”

18. Man, I love Strand books. Pandemic has wrecked alot of stuff.

“The Strand, with its four retail floors and its claimed “18 miles of books,” is a collector’s paradise. A nerd’s sanctuary. A place where staff take pride in knowing their stuff and imparting that wisdom to shoppers. The past year, though, has laid bare just how perilous a job you like, or even love, can be when you’re working without the most basic of safety nets.

This fragility is something that Strand employees have always known — they work in retail, after all. Before, though, the job had just enough perks, just enough meaning, to make it worth the struggle. In that way, working at the Strand was like a microcosm of living in New York, a city that absolutely does not need you. Without all the good, the bad takes on new weight.”

19. The Sharper Image. I remember that store that was in almost every major mall in the 80s and 90s. Its rise and fall.

20. One of the best threads I’ve read on Future of Work. This is must read on where the working world is going. Seriously.

21. “Discord gives Microsoft access to a growing list of more than 140 million monthly active users that includes thousands of top YouTubers, creators, and gamers. Microsoft wants its own community.

The community and creator aspects for Microsoft’s potential Discord acquisition are clear, but the company is also driven by its desire to have big public services running on Azure.”

22. Good profile & write up on the story of Clubhouse. It’s very early days but this has been fun to watch.

23. “But what we have is this collision between a public that is in repudiation mode and these elites who have lost control to the degree that they can’t hoist these utopian promises upon us anymore because no one believes it, but they’re still acting like zombie elites in zombie institutions. They still have power. They can still take us to war. They can still throw the police out there, and the police could shoot us, but they have no authority or legitimacy. They’re stumbling around like zombies.

Our politicians and institutions are going to have to adjust to the new world in which the public can’t be walled off or controlled. Leaders can’t stand at the top of pyramids anymore and talk down to people. The digital revolution flattened everything. We’ve got to accept that.”

24. “And as remote workers realize they can reprioritize their personal needs, they will leverage this ability to conduct a tech-enabled exit. Through this “vote with your feet” practice of “tech enabled exit”, governments will begin to adapt their policy offerings to attract this class of people or be forced to adapt to their absence. In the end, the Sovereign Individual class will gain previously unavailable qualities of life.

This change will not be a smooth transition. It will be full of conflict, populism, and will change what people value. There will be bitterness, resentment, and attempts to publicly shame and extract value from this new group of people. Most importantly, in this transition, freedom of movement will become a luxury good.”

25. The lockdowns don’t work & if they do, u have to go all out like in China.

“the lockdowns destroyed industries, schools, churches, liberties and lives, demoralizing the population and robbing people of essential rights. All in the name of safety from a virus that did its work in any case.

What’s striking about all the above predictions of infections and deaths is not just that they were all wrong. It’s the arrogance and confidence behind each of them. After a full year and directly observing the inability of “nonpharmaceutical interventions” to manage the pathogen, the experts are still wedded to their beloved lockdowns, unable or unwilling to look at the data and learn anything from them.

The concept of lockdowns stemmed from a faulty premise: that you can separate humans, like rats in cages, and therefore control and even eradicate the virus. After a year, we unequivocally know this not to be true, something that the best and wisest epidemiologists knew all along.”

26. “The talent game has become more complex for the 2020s. Businesses continue to seek out human capital in inventive ways and with little regard for national borders. Now, though, countries have joined the race — which means more freedom and opportunity than ever before for in-demand workers.”

27. The Lesson: The Noble Lie is usually not. Also learn to think for yourself.

“Which brings me to the reason experts should be more reluctant to lie to the public: They aren’t experts on the topic of when to lie.

Just because you know about biology or public health doesn’t mean you know whether publicly admitting that masks work will make people hoard them. And just because you know about economics doesn’t mean you understand politics and public opinion formation. When experts make guesses about whether the public can handle the truth, they aren’t acting as experts; they’re acting as amateurs. They’re winging it.

Experts who take it upon themselves to decide what truths the public can and can’t handle might be making the same mistake so many smart people make — that because they’re smart about one thing, they’re smart about everything.”

28. What an implosion.

“He was a hot-shot disciple of the hedge-fund legend Julian Robertson — one of the stars to strike out on his own from the vaunted Tiger empire. Now Bill Hwang is at the center of an extraordinary spree of giant stock trades that’s reverberated through financial markets and set Wall Street abuzz.”

29. “For every negative thought, there is a positive counter thought. If you don’t like the Celtics, maybe you like the Knicks. If you don’t like Trump, maybe you like Biden. If you don’t like Bitcoin, maybe you like Ethereum. It is a pretty simple move, and also a very powerful move, to focus on what you like versus what you don’t like.”

30. “It’s clear that Americans feel comfortable relying on their local pharmacies for the vaccine,” said one senior Biden health official. “The retail pharmacy program will keep growing and I think you will begin to see more people going down the block to CVS to get the shot than driving maybe an hour to the federal sites to get it.”

31. “The future of finance is crypto currencies and the world is changing at rates we’ve never seen before (we lived through the birth of the internet — unfortunately getting old). The reason we have to do this product and people need to pay attention is because of Darwinism “Adapt or Die”. If we didn’t focus our attention in this area you would know that we fell behind in terms of advances in technology. If we figured out VPNs, Aff. Marketing, Hypervisors etc… It would make sense that we were following this space as well.

Will there be blow ups? Yes. Will there be 100x returns in certain projects? Yes. Do you want to have absolutely zero exposure to this type of market? No. The writing is already on the wall as high tech rarely goes to zero.

If you look at history, the internet was a massive bubble but it ended up being life changing technology. The car was laughed at and was a bubble with 1,000s of car companies but that was also life changing technology. We can go on and on. If you see a massive bubble in anything that pops and comes back to life… You’ve found a real technology.”

32. Crypto, Precious metals, Farmland and Uncorrelated Foreign Investments.

“These are the four stores of value that I think any portfolio should consider. There’s not one golden ticket. My perspective, as a pragmatic entrepreneur, is to get involved in all of them. I don’t go all-in on anything. I like to have a little bit of everything.

You’re better able to protect yourself and your assets by having several options.

The added benefit is that in buying land or real estate or by investing in foreign businesses or governments you might get a residence or citizenship out of it. Especially for Westerners, this residual benefit will provide big value going forward that you never thought you needed 10 years ago.”

33. “The Suez accident, which is holding up an estimated $9.6bn of goods a day according to Lloyd’s List, has drawn attention to the inherent fragility of tightly stretched global supply chains at the very moment when they are already being buffeted by a pandemic and in an era when the philosophical underpinnings of global trade are being challenged.”

34. A very good summary & history of money here.

35. “The goal is to earn across all time zones in a 24 hour period. A kind of temporal income strategy.

24 hour time zone earning maximizes freedom by earning in many environments. It’s a hedge against localized risks like war, natural disaster, and changing economic environments. If you’re trying to cultivate resilience and freedom, then you want to incorporate a time zone strategy into your income portfolio.”

“Leverage proof of work by creating an information capital asset and gifting it to the person whose attention you want to attract. By gifting real value, they will have a better understanding of your worth and you will rise above your peers.”

36. “So, in short: too much debt and money printing leads to a declining value of the US dollar, and potentially stagflation.

As a result, the government is likely to drastically raise taxes and chase business and capital away from the United States, leading to capital controls and prohibitions on alternative investments.

This is not some wild conspiracy theory or crazy conjecture. This is one of the wealthiest, most successful fund managers in human history bluntly calling the end of the US-dollar debt supercycle.

His top recommendation, for example, is “a well-diversified portfolio of non-debt and non-dollar assets.”

And in Dalio’s view, diversification means “currency diversification, country diversification, as well as asset class diversification.”

In other words, don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket, one country, or one currency.”

37. Babylon Berlin is a great show. Bit dark but still good.

38. “Long term thinkers have the upper hand. It takes emotional intelligence and control, but if you can keep your focus on the select few things that move the needle for your goals, you have a fighting chance. And ultimately, a fighting chance is all that any of us can ask for.”

39. “The big ad-based platforms will become more commerce-focused over time, and emergent platforms will likely start with subscription, microtransactions, or virtual currencies — or stitch together all three. In this future, platforms will capture more of the value that they create, creators will more easily earn a living, and consumers will have a better experience online.”

40. “99.99% of people in this world, the Common Man, have much more in common with each other than the media/political/banking/corporate class that is actively trying to pit them against each other by taking extremely nuanced topics and forcing people to view them as “black and white”, pick a side, and aggressively attack the “other” for not demonstrating “same think”.

Don’t give into their games. They are pure evil and they will lead society to ruin.

Turn off the boob tube. Talk to your neighbors. Have open and honest conversations. Don’t let them divide. And most importantly, SPEAK UP against their dividing tactics.”

41. “This is not to say there cannot be changes in how we deal with China. Europe and the United States are developing new forms of economic competition with China, but this is better regarded as the final triumph of neoliberalism, not its collapse: Western democracies now behave like firms in the market, jostling for share and control over advanced technology.”

42. This is a smart move. Nano Funds do perform well.

“We then looked at performance across our fund managers, and it turns out that of funds with $50 million in capital — our better-performing funds — have more ownership than 7.5%. They have more like 10% to 12%. Now, when you look at these tiny funds, if you’re a $15 million fund, 15% of that [should equate to] 2.2% ownership, but we are seeing that these tiny funds are actually getting more like 4% to 5% ownership. They’re punching above their weight because of who is involved.”

43. Ukraine is pretty awesome and I do love Kyiv!

44. WOW. This is a big fund. But based on their past track record, no surprise that LPs would throw money at them.

45. “Assuming that we can go back to feel safe around each other and the vaccines can manage our safety effectively, I think it’s fair to assume that urban amenities will come back pretty much at the same level that existed before, so [the] labor supply of well-educated workers will keep flowing to these places.”

46. Importance of Frontier & mindset which has served America well.

“In Tocqueville’s view, the existence of a frontier seemed to divert a lot of political energy into commerce. In a country like France at the time that was fully settled, a lot of the way that people got ahead was through politics-redistribution of existing wealth rather than the creation of new wealth.

When you have a huge frontier that includes some of the best farmland & access to natural resources on the planet, it’s actually easier to advance by going out and settling the frontier — effectively discovering “new” wealth.”

“One wonders to what extent America’s philosophy of pragmatism was born of the frontier. There is less to be gained by getting all political, just focus on getting things done & you’ll do just fine.

There’s a lot of deservedly negative things that can be said about America, both present & past, but one thing I find nearly everyone agrees with is that it’s still probably the best place in the world to be an entrepreneur. It seems plausible to me that part of this is attributable to the frontier that existed for a long time. If you were an entrepreneur that wanted to get new things done, a country with a vast frontier is a good place to do it.”

47. “Once you make an honest accounting of the sources of stress in your life, you’ll know to balance all of that strain with rest. This is important! It’s easy to see how only doing strenuous workouts without any time off is not a good way to get stronger, right? You’ll just be exhausted. But this pattern happens too often in our daily lives, in a society that pushes us to be constantly productive. Too many of us are consistently in a state of low-level aggravation and threat response. This takes a toll on the body. It makes us sick; it shortens our lives. Thinking about your life in cycles of stress and rest — welcoming the hard parts but committing to real recovery — is a way to break out of this pattern.

In this way, embracing stress is not about living a life of discomfort. It’s about balance. Be sure you’re bouncing back. But also know that you can never rest your body to greatness: Whether we want to admit it or not, all growth starts with stress.”

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